Miami Heat Can Improve Even if Dwyane Wade Leaves
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The Kevin Durant sweepstakes
Other than that, it was an excellent Fourth of July weekend for the Miami Heat!
The Heat is teetering between a maybe-contender in the East and a tear-it-down-and-auction-off-the-pieces era. Being anything between that is just a waste of time in today's NBA. Heat fans would obviously choose the former over the latter in that scenario, but how can the team get better with so little wiggle room under the cap and a depleted stock of draft picks?
There are a few ways. Don't lose hope, fans. The Heat can still improve, but it just won't be as easy as you're used to.
5. Continue building up Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.
In retrospect, last year's afterthought of an NBA draft might be one of the most important days in Heat history. Miami had one pitch to knock it out of the park, and the team hit a grand slam. Moving forward, the Heat may have scored its next franchise player in Winslow and the future starting point guard in Josh Richardson. Talk about clutch.
In today's NBA, having two young-cheap contributors is everything, and the Heat has just that locked up for the next few years. What is to be seen is what level Winslow and Richardson reach before they become free agents down the line. The level of stardom to which Winslow rises will be a huge part of the Heat's success moving forward. If anything, both Winslow and Richardson are attractive assets if another star becomes available in trade.
4. The Heat has plenty of draft picks.
People seem to have confused the Heat not having a first-round pick to trade until 2023 with the team not having any; that's just not the case. The Heat has first-round picks in 2017, 2019, and 2020 and a second-round pick in 2018. The team can also always acquire a second-round pick for cash during the draft. The Heat will make draft picks over the next five years. Miami just can't trade any of those picks because the team sent away two in the Goran Dragic deal.
The point of all of this is there will be instances when the Heat can add youth to the players it has in place, even if it's mid-first-round-level talent.
3. Trade Goran Dragic or even Chris Bosh.
Of all the things the Heat has to offer in trade, Goran Dragic's relatively modest $86 million contract might be the team's most attractive asset outside of Justise Winslow. In today's market, Dragic would get much more than that, which makes him a valuable pickup for a contending team midseason. This might make the Heat worse in the short term, but it would allow for the addition of draft picks and pieces that would let the team reload for the future.
If Wade leaves, the Heat needs to truthfully assess its situation. Having a 30-something point guard who rarely takes over a game by himself making a chunk of your team's salary cap might not be the best way to regroup from such a loss.
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Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks
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2. Help Hassan Whiteside
Hassan Whiteside has been great in his time with the Heat, but let's be honest: He was often stat-chasing. Can you blame him? It worked. Whiteside got his huge deal this offseason, and along with it comes financial stability. Now Whiteside can go one of two ways: become the franchise centerpiece who wants to win, or take his money and turtle into Dwight Howard diva mode. Which way he goes will affect the Heat greatly.
The hope is Whiteside can now tinker with his game and make it better, which is scary to think about. If the Heat
1. Make future off-seasons better than this one.
The Heat might have struck out this summer, but next summer will be even bigger thanks to a much more robust free-agent class. If Wade leaves and the Heat tinkers with the roster a bit, Miami can still make a run at some of the biggest names in the NBA. One thing you never have to worry about is Pat Riley accepting mediocrity.
Whether it be in free agency or trade, you always know the Heat will do its best to make a splash. They did it with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, they did it with the Shaq trade, they did it with LeBron James, and they will do it again.